RapCaviar Presents | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, December 6th, 2023  

RapCaviar Presents

Hulu, March 30, 2023

May 23, 2023 Photography by Hulu Web Exclusive
Bookmark and Share

In many circles, Spotify’s name has become synonymous with not paying artists their dues, or Joe Rogan’s bad behavior, or overblown celebrity podcasting deals that apart from the few at the top, have been mostly detrimental to the audio industry. This year, however, Spotify has done something commendable. The DSP put out a bold music docuseries with Hulu, RapCaviar Presents, that elevates the way we talk about rap and hip hop and its accompanying culture.

The series takes its name from the playlist RapCaviar, and acts as companion to Spotify’s popular curated rap playlist whose “saves” grew exponentially during the 4 year tenure of hip hop tastemaker Tuma Basa, who was then Spotify’s Global Programming Head of Hip Hop. Today, the playlist has a fanbase of more than 15 million users and is widely considered one of the most influential playlists in hip hop.

This six-part series tackles long overdue questions through the experience of a handful of the playlist’s most popular acts. It exposes structural racism, interrogating how it feeds into long held ideas of hypermasculinity (Tyler the Creator), misogyny (City Girls), body image (Coi Leray), mental health (Roddy Ricch) and violence (Polo G and final episode Rhyme & Punishment).

In the first episode, rap auteur Tyler the Creator states, “Niggas treat my nuance like a nuisance.” He is describing his trajectory as a Black kid growing up in Hawthorne who eschewed L.A.’s gangsta-rap signifiers of low riders, gang violence and hardened men with criminal records, for skateboarding, candy coloured women’s polo tees and his goofy personality. In addition, his early predilection for the ‘90s funk of Jamiroquai and Pharrell Williams’ projects set Tyler the Creator further apart from the hypermasculine rap figures that his peers limited themselves to.

As Tyler the Creator’s ambitions grew and his music matured beyond shock-jock raps with his elegant fourth album Flower Boy, it became obvious that not fitting the favored rapper identikit was never going to be perceived as an advantage. Instead, it left the gifted wordsmith on the outside. Veteran L.A. radio host, Big Boy relates how hip hop radio stations kept Tyler the Creator’s music off their rotations because he defied categorization. Fellow rapper Vince Staples makes a more pointed observation about how Black people are often stereotyped as violent, then marketed in the media as such. “People are always going to box something in,” Staples states, “That’s not music, that’s just Black people in America.” Staples asks the question, “Who does this narrative serve?” and effectively pulls the lens out to provoke larger questions of history and race that still undergird much of American life.

The second episode follows two Miami-based female rappers Yung Mami and JT, who are proponents of “pussy rap.” They are unapologetic, and rap explicitly about sex, strip clubs and money, themes that male rappers have exploited for decades. When women take the reins and center their needs, however, men in the industry push back. A video of Snoop Dogg pearl-clutching as he discusses “pussy rap” saying, “—that should be a woman’s pride and joy, your jewel…that should be a possession that no one gets to know about until they know about it,” seems particularly rich. It exposes the misogyny, as well as industry hypocrisy, and goes a long way in proving just how vital these women’s voices are in rap music.

The episode goes further with commentators highlighting the unrealistic standards that are placed on women in music— from being criticized for the way they look, to what they sing about–and in the case of the City Girls, whether they can even rap. And when JT took a guilty plea for fraud charges in 2018—cruelly, just as their music began to blow up—and had to serve prison time, Yung Mami who was then pregnant, continued to perform as City Girls to keep their momentum. She was then faced with the pressure to pick between motherhood or her career.

In the fifth episode, women’s bodies are in the spotlight again with emerging artist Coi Leray who is rail-thin and body shamed for it. The online bullying was so forceful that she considered giving up her career.

The Roddy Ricch episode focuses on what an outsized impact the internet and social media now has on a rapper’s career. As swiftly as it can make an artist, it can take them down. This destructive parasocial relationship in the form of online attacks with real world consequences take a toll on Ricch’s mental health.

The episode that was most illuminating was of the soft-spoken, young Chicago rapper, Polo G. First, it presents a relationship between a Black father and his son as tender — not a representation we see often enough in the media. Then it reveals how growing up on neighborhood streets with gangs and gun violence results in unspeakable trauma for young Black men in very real ways. Polo G talks about an uncle that died at a shoot out and how seeing his face at the open casket funeral was his earliest traumatic experience. Later on, good friends at school would come to the same fate, though he would never again get close to an open casket. Meanwhile, gentrification would add salt to the wound by displacing people and erasing the history of these inner city areas. Polo G explains how writing poetry and rap have given him a way to process his trauma. This healing continues for listeners of his music.

Beyond culture critics, essayists or book authors, contextualizing rappers and their art in this manner doesn’t happen often enough. And even when it does, as in the case of Louder Than A Riot, an excellent podcast that takes a similar, scholarly deep dive into pivotal moments and movements in hip hop, there’s no guarantee that it can survive the whims of commerce. Barely two episodes into its second season, NPR announced that funding cuts would mean they would not produce a third. A show like RapCaviar Presents with its commentary from music journalists, veteran managers and fellow artists gives the diehard rap stan as well as casual TV viewer—even one with only a passing interest in hip hop or music—the opportunity to be cognizant of the issues affecting society writ large, and a better understanding of the change we need to effect. A second season and more stories would be welcomed. (www.hulu.com/rapcaviar-presents)

Author rating: 8/10

Rate this show


Submit your comment

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

There are no comments for this entry yet.